Homers Ajax

Homer`s Ajax The relevance that the themes of tragedy could have to issues affecting the city-state even in plays whose plots had ostensibly nothing to do with life in a polis shows up clearly in Sophocles’ play entitled Ajax, presented in the early 440s B.C. The play bore the name of the second-best warrior (Achilles had been preeminent) in the Greek army that besieged Troy in the Trojan War. When his fellow Greek soldiers voted to award the armor of the dead Achilles to the wily Odysseus instead of himself, Ajax went on a berserk rampage against his former friends which the goddess Athena thwarted because Ajax had once rejected her help in battle. Disgraced by his failure to secure revenge Ajax committed suicide. Odysseus then stepped in to convince the Greek chiefs to bury Ajax despite his attempted treachery because the future security of the army and the obligations of friendship demanded that they obey the divine injunction always to bury the dead. Odysseus’ arguments in favor of burying Ajax anachronistically treat the army as if it were a polis, and his use of persuasive speech to achieve accommodation of conflicting individual interests to the benefit of the community corresponds to the way in which disputes in the polis were supposed to be resolved.